Saturday, April 29, 2023

Hike: Coldwater Lake, Toutle, WA


Getting There

From Portland, take I-5 north to Castle Rock (Exit 49) - 51.2 miles. Then, take the Spirit Lake Hwy (WA-504) for 45.7 miles to Coldwater Lake.

The Hike

AllTrails map

Length: 8.17 mi
Elev. gain: 840 ft
Moving time: 3:05:11
Total time: 3:34:21
Avg pace: 22:40
Calories: 1,864







It was such a nice day out, 2nd or 3rd really sunny & warm day of 2023. I started the hike around 1pm.

This side of the Lakes Trail is mostly flat (I got about 840 ft of gain from small ups & downs). There are a few spots where it's a shear drop to the shoreline and several spots perfect for relaxing and getting down the water.

I finally encountered a creek crossing that required getting in the water. When I first reached the obstacle I wasn't sure what to do. I studied the options and hemmed & hawed. After a couple of minutes, several hikers came through and watched how they fared. They all went through with boots on. I still didn't like the idea of getting my boots soaked so I thought I'd take off my socks and at least have those dry (until I stuck them in the wet boots).

Then, another pair of hikers came through and went barefoot. Again, I watched them cross safely. No sharp rocks and they weren't slippery. I tied my boots together by the shoelaces, stuffed my socks in my front pocket, and rolled my pant legs up. I used my hiking poles for a proper 4-point stance.

On the other side, I sat down to dry my feet and put on my dry socks and boots! Success!

At this point, I was still considering do the loop but I kept eyeing the snow on the ridge on opposite side of lake. I could see a snowy line cutting across, so it was going to be slow going without microspikes or snow shoes. I looked at the time and started to second guess my plan.

I decided to just go to the end of the lake and come back when it's warmer and minus the snow. (Or, return with proper gear).

The end of the lake seemed like a mirage, the closer I got, the more distance there seemed to be. I crossed a few more creeks and kept going. I got to lake access trail and made that my turnaround spot after taking some photos.


On the way back I encountered a few more hikers and could here a couple of people near the shorelines off-trail.

I was ready for that creek crossing again. The conditions had changed. The water was muddy as it flowed into the lake. The water through the creek/falls was noticeably brownish and flowing more vigorously. I took off my boots & socks and stepped carefully through the water. 

On the other side, I sat down and put my dry socks & boots back on. When I stood up, my lower back seized up. Uh oh! Not good. I had pain shooting down my leg.

When hiking at BRSP on Thursday, I had twinge of back pain when I sat briefly on my way back to the Hardy Ridge Trail from Phlox Point.

I was still about 2.1 miles from the trailhead. The good news is that the trail was more or less flat and not too many obstacles. (I imagined being up on the ridge with this problem. Yikes).

I took my time and relied heavily on my hiking poles to stay upright and steady. Despite the discomfort, I stopped to enjoy the views and snap a couple of photos. Such a gorgeous place.

As I got closer to Kim Island, I could see a few kayakers and knew I only had a 1/2 mile to go.

I was so glad to make it back to the car. Whew!

I've been focused on foot, ankle, knee pain - I hadn't thought about dealing with debilitating back pain. Need to improve my core strength.

Mt St Helens

Near the end of the Lakes Trail


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Hike: Phlox Point & Hamilton Mountain, N Bonneville, WA

Getting There

The trailhead is accessible from the Equestrian Camp Parking Lot, a bit west of Beacon Rock & Hamilton Mountain.

Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville. Just after Doetsch Ranch you'll see the Ranger Station on the north side of the road just before the Beacon Rock parking lot. The road winds up the hill for a bit. Keep a lookout for the the Equestrian Camp turn off.

The Hike

AllTrails map

Length: 14.36 mi
Elev. gain: 3,638 ft
Moving time: 5:57:11
Total time: 6:30:41
Avg pace: 24:52
Calories: 3,595

Big day at Beacon Rock State Park! It was the first really warm day of the year, in the mid 70s F and clear skies. 

The original plan was to finally reach Phlox Point. I'd seen a trail report on PortlandHikers that someone had broken the trail without microspikes or snow shoes. 

This hike had several "firsts" for the year:

  • First hike without long johns or jacket
  • First mosquito bite
  • First hike with my favorite straw hat
  • First two-summit hike


My previous two attempts were back in March: 

  • 3/7: I didn't even make it to the top of the West Hardy Ridge due to deep snow and not having snow snows.
  • 3/26: I returned with my snow shoes and I made it to the top (lost my pack cover) but I didn't feel up to going the rest of the way to Phlox Pt. I did end up going up to the Saddle.

This time

Again I took the West Hardy Ridge Trail. The snow was completely going, except small patches in the trees. What a difference a month makes.

At the top, I continued on to Phlox Point. I started to see patches of snow but it was easy to traverse. In fact, it was a bit soft so I had to tread lightly. Toward the end of the trail, the last scramble, I had to go off trail for a about 10 ft. It was great to finally reach my goal on the third try this year.

I took in the panoramic views for a bit, then got moving again. At Hardy Ridge, I met a hiker that was on his way to Phlox Pt. He said he'd come from Hamilton and the reported snow-free conditions except near the Bridge. I hadn't thought to going all the way to Hamilton but it piqued my interest.

I decided to take a look at the Bridge Trail when I got there. The East Hardy Ridge Trail was 95% snow-free. The Bridge Trail looked good so I took it. The snow was minimal on the east side of the bridge but enough that I put on microspikes. I took them off on when I reached the Upper Hardy Creek Trail.

From there, my new goal was to take Don's Cutoff to the Saddle if it looked good. It did! I ascended up the trail, passing a pair of hikers, and reached the Equestrian Trail and continued to the Saddle. I went all the way to the tree line and considered my options: go back to the car from here or continue on to Hamilton.

"Fuck it" I said. I mustered the energy and headed for the summit. Again, no snow and dry conditions on the trail.

At the Hamilton summit, I met a hiker who was heading in the opposite direction. We chatted for a bit about the area before parting ways.

On my descent, I was feeling good but getting tired and sore. I considered how I would get back to the trailhead if I didn't take Hardy Creek. Not really viable. I'd probably have a tough time hitchhiking from Hwy 14 to the Equestrian Camp Trailhead.

I made a stop at Little Hamilton and continued my trek.

By the time I reached the Hardy Creek trail, I really had to dig deep. It climbs steadily for more than half the trail. I took my time and rested when I needed. I was running out of Gatorade but I knew it was keeping my fueled.

I passed the hiker I'd seen at the top of Hamilton and said hello again.

It was so great to reach the picnic bench and the creek crossing.

While the trail was flat and pretty easy, I was running on reserves. My ankles, knees, and leg muscles were complaining. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I saw a hiker also heading to the trailhead.

Eventually I caught up with this person, a bird watcher. He was trying to ID species that was chirping above us. I got out my phone with the Merlin ID app. Murphy's Law: when I started recording, we didn't hear it anymore. Oh well.

I found a bit more energy and put on a brave face for the final push to the parking lot.

Seeing my car was the best. I made it. Over 14 miles and 3,600 ft of elevation gain!

Looking east

Phlox Point

Bridge Trail

Upper Hardy Creek


Note: I didn't take any photos after the bridge. That part of my hike is well documented.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Hike: Wyeth / Gorton Creek, Cascade Locks, OR

Getting There

The trailhead & parking lot is off Hwy 30. My original plan was to hike Herman Creek but while getting ready, my nose started bleeding, not bad but makes me wary about the rest of the day.

Then, after the car next to me left, I noticed all kinds of glass on the ground. Argh. I know car break-ins is the new norm for outings, I just can't absorb the potential cost right now. Plus, I feel like it would exacerbate my mental state as I'm at an inflection point in my career.

My backup plan was to have lunch at Cascade Locks but thought I'd poke up the road a bit. I saw the Wyeth Parking lot and pulled in.

The actual trail is behind the campground, which is still closed for the season.

The Hike

Length: 2.58 mi
Elev. gain: 338 ft
Moving time: 53:49
Avg pace: 20:54
Calories: 542
Total time: 57:25

When I reached the trailhead inside the campground, I immediately remembered coming here before, and why it wasn't awesome. Emerald Falls is nice but not much of a hike. 

The Wyeth Trail was fenced off last time due to mudslide related to the Eagle Creek fire.

I saw a family heading up the trail and headed up in the same direction. Around the bend, they took a small trail back to the campground but I realized I was on power line access roads. Meh.

The trail dips into the trees but I was stopped short at Harphan Creek. The spring thaw has made this pretty fast flowing and wider than it probably usually is. I couldn't find a dry crossing. It wasn't super deep but I didn't want to try going barefoot.

I hiked back down the access road but found the creek was cutting through the road as well. Kind of a bust. In hindsight, it seems overly cautious to bail a hike due to a small creek crossing.

It just wasn't feeling it. I hike back to the Gorton Creek and up the Emerald Falls. I know the Gorge Trail was just lateral trail with limited views and lots of noise from I-84.

The risk of a car break-in was on my mind as well so I ended the hike and went back to the parking lot.

Some days just aren't meant to be. That's okay. At least I got out of the house for a bit and hiked 2.5 miles.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Hike: Wind Mountain, Home Valley, WA

Selfie from Wind Mountain (bg: Dog Mtn, Columbia River Gorge)

Getting There

From WA Hwy 14 at Home Valley (just east of Carson), take Wind Mountain Road. Follow for 1.0 mile and take the right to stay on Wind Mountain Road. Go another 0.4 mile to Girl Scout Road (on right) and continue 0.3 mile to the trailhead. 

There's a clearing before the actual trail where the dirt road drops down. Technically, there's room for 1 or 2 cars across from the trail but best to park at the clearing.

The Hike

AllTrails map

Length: 2.55 mi
Elev. gain: 1,135 ft
Moving time: 1:11:22
Total time: 1:19:55
Avg pace: 28:02
Calories: 718

After hiking in the Wind River Valley (Bunker Hill, Whistle Punk Loop), I still had some daylight and energy. I wasn't ready to head back to Portland. Since I was close to Wind Mountain, it was an easy choice. I'd been wanting to hike it since scouting the trailhead a year ago after hiking at Dog Mountain.

I'd seen some trail pictures but really didn't know much else. I knew it wasn't as long as Dog Mountain but I only learned its history and spiritual significance until I reached and read the sign near the top.

It's not a long hike but it's got some decent elevation gain. It was good trek to pair with my earlier hike.

View of surrounding area (Augspurger Mountain)

Trail winds through downfall and rocks

The trail

Sign near the summit
"The Wind Mountain Spirit Quest Site was likely constructed between 200 and 1,000 years ago. Youth questing for their guardian spirits fasted and spent the night here away from their village or camp. Maintaining a constant vigil during the quest, they also completed strenuous physical tasks such as building rock piles. A vision or dream eventually came revealing the seeker's guardian spirit, a spirit that remained with a person for a lifetime.

This site is an exceptional example of the Columbia Plateau cultural pattern represented by construction of rock walls, pits and mounds in talus fields. Artifacts are seldom found in sites of this type.

Tribal people continue to visit this sacred area."  

It was an honor to visit the site and enjoy the views.

Columbia River, looking west

Home Valley

Dog Mountain, Columbia River

Rock walls, pits and mounds

Rock walls, pits and mounds

Glimpse of Oregon through the trees

The Summit

Pano of summit (Dog Mtn, Columbia River)

Hike: Bunker Hill + Whistle Punk Loop, Carson, WA


Top of Bunker Hill

Getting There

In Washington, take Hwy 14 to the Wind River Hwy through Carson. Take the highway north for 10.7 miles to Stabler. Take Hemlock Road west and go about 1.2 miles to the Wind River Work Center. The Google Maps directions are wrong and try to route you through private property! Go a little further past the Work Center to NF-417. Keep a lookout for the a right turn for Old Bunker Hill Road. It's just a little more to the Trailhead parking lot.

The Hike

AllTrails map

Length: 5.62 mi (Bunker Hill: 3.91; Whistle Punk: 1.71)
Elev. gain: 1,322 ft (BH: 1266; WP: 56)
Moving time: 2:11:39
Total time: 2:31:49
Avg pace: 23:26
Calories: 1,325 

Bunker Hill

Note: The Bunker Hill trail crosses a large field before you get to the tree line. The trailhead signage marks the Whistle Punk Loop trail.

The first part of the trail is a bit swampy but there are some logs to help you get through. Eventually, you reach a wider trail which is most of the route.

It's a beautiful hike with very little undergrowth. It climbs at a moderate rate via switchbacks. While it's airy in the trees you can't really see the surrounding hills in the valley. It's not until you reach the ridge that you can see daylight and hints at views.

The trail makes the final climb to the top on the backside of the actual ridge. The photos below start from the top. 

"A fire lookout once perched on the 2,383-foot-elevation summit, offering views of the Wind River Valley and the former Wind River Nursery. Bunker Hill is an igneous volcanic plug that was pushed up through layers of lava flows and volcanic debris 25 to 20 million years ago. The igneous plug is less resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock. Several places along the trail furnish superb views of the Wind River Valley, and the Ranger District/Nursery complex."

Footings from old fire lookout before the canopy grew up

A tribute to an old friend

View looking southeast of the Wind River Valley

Ridge trail

Another view of the Wind River Valley

Glimpse at the PCT

Swampy crossing

Pano of approach to trail (Bunker Hill is on the left)

Whistle Punk Loop

After my Bunker Hill hike, I took a spin around the Whistle Punk Loop. Just a few relics of the lumber industry is left, i.e. several rusted spark arresters.

"This trail is a barrier-free interpretive trail that tells the story of forest management from a historical perspective. Signs and a brochure guide visitors along the trail, which runs along an old railroad grade (dating back to 1913) and past features associated with railroad logging by the Wind River Logging Company."

"In logging's heyday, whistle punks were men tasked with operating the signal that let other loggers know a log had been hooked up and was ready to be moved. Using interpretive signage, this trail illustrates what was like to be on a logging show, from the crew, to the cook, to camp. There are even some relics from the past, including a "sled", which is now quite hard to see, as well as some other metal artifacts."

Wind River Research Natural Area

"This old-growth Douglas fir and hemlock forest is
designated for scientific and educational use. Research
is conducted on all aspects of this import forest type,
including plants, animals, soil and climate; this research
is used to improve our understanding and management of
similar forests.

If you enter this area, please leave plants, animals and
research installations undisturbed because continuing
ecological studies depend on unaltered natural conditions."

The Smoke Stack's Connected to the Spark Arrester

"The smoke from the fire makes hot sparks.
The hot sparks rise up the smokestack.
The smokestack is connected to the spark arrester.
The spark arrester is layered with wire mesh.
And the wire mesh stops the sparks."

As the Donkey Puncher pulls on the controls, smoke pours out of
the stack. He thinks about how steam generates power needed
for moving the cables that move logs. He hums.
"Dem Bones, dem bones, dem dry bones..."

"That steam, that steam, that powerful steam,
so hear the sound of the steam donkey..."

The water tank pipes to the boiler.
The wood tender throws in the wood chunks.
The fire box heats up the water.
And the steam goes into the steam box.

The steam box is connected to the pistons.
The pistons push the rods that turn the gears.
The gears are connected to the cabin drum.
And the donkey puncher feeds out the cable.

The cable goes out to the big woods.
The choker setter connects the cable to a big log.
The log is yarded to the landing.
And the steam donkey powers the cables.

That steam, that steam, that powerful steam,
so hear the sounds of the steam engine.

A continual menace to logging operations -- FIRE!
Despite protection from the spark arrester, firey sparks
flew from cables rubbing cables, cables rubbing logs, and
from screeching brakes on railroad cars."

"... and cables swing the 6,000-pound log overhead. As it
swings over the railroad car, he signals to the Donkey Engineer
to drop it quick. He scurries to remove the tongs, ignoring the
Head Loader's mouth over on the log pile.

He dreams of becoming a High Climber, He knows he has
enough nerve to climb and rig 200-foot spars with 2,000-pound
blocks. He'd be his own boss and earn $5 more a day - a big
jump from the $2-day wage he received when starting out as
as Whistle Punk."

A Portable Workshop of Ingenuity
"Ha! You call dis ah verkshop?" mocks the Swede. "It's just a railroad
car with sides and a roof. Da crew just rolled it off da railroad on
'dare way to pick up another trainful of logs. Ha! A verkshop! Ha!"

"by Tunder, Svede!" shouts back the Irishman. "If we didn't have
dis workshop, the logging show wouldn't operate. If it weren't for
our smarts, the railroad wouldn't run, the blocks wouldn't move smoothly,
and we wouldn't have handles on our saws."

"Oh yah, Red. Yah. So where's da Marlin spike to splice da cable?
Da boss vants me to work on dis one. Fast! It's holdin' up one side
of da show! Da main line cable broke, and dat boss!... Dat boss, he
don't want 'dose 50 men hangin' round in da woods."